her thought cave

nina and daniela for @smoltinypumpkinchild

BONUS:: 

nina doesn’t give in and now has a nice new bob

10

You’ve been doing well, and you’re enduring. You will be going forward. Plus you have me.

4

SW week 2 Day 4: Rewrite a Scene

 Mulan rescues Aurora

i want to see arya and bran bond over being skinchangers 

bran trying to explain how it feels to fly and arya telling him about the cats in braavos when she was blind

the two of them having a shared understanding of the appeal they find in their wolf dreams 

bran confessing about hodor (who was a friend to both of them) and arya just hugging him without fear or judgement 

and also just comparing notes on their training with super secret societies that taught them creepy bloodmagic 

Hello, hello, hello! It’s your old pal, Clara Dare, and not just the reblogging robot you’ve all come to know (and probably not love). After an incredibly busy first month and a half of school, I’ve finally got some fan fiction written–late fan fiction, that is: a Gajevy Love Fest Entry, Selfie/Sexting. 

Not to toot my own horn, but I laughed pretty hard…at myself. 

“After four day’s of a week-long “girl’s” vacation, Levy doesn’t think she can take much more of being away from Gajeel. To satiate her, Cana comes up with a plan: sext him, of course! But…can she and Gajeel really…do that?” 

One-shot; T-borderline-M; Humor, Romance

Characters: Levy McGarden, Gajeel Redfox, Cana Alberona, Lucy Heartfilia, Natsu Dragneel, Juvia Lockser, Bacchus Groh

For those of you who are wondering: Yes. The next chapter of the Black Onyx WILL ALSO be done. I’m not sure when–sorry! 

Best, 

C. Dare

The digital clock on the hotel microwave read 12:30 AM. The large suite was still and silent, sticky with tropical heat and ocean essence that seemed to filter into everything, here. Levy’s clothes. All the food she’d eaten, in the past four days. The pages of the book she was reading.

…Or trying to read, anyway.

However, her eyes kept crawling off the page, and over to the phone lying on the arm of the sofa, where they’d linger before she would blink rapidly, shake herself off, and determinedly re-devote herself to Ancestry of the World, only to become distracted minutes later. Every time her gaze wandered back to the cellphone, it seemed to be bigger. More suggestive…suggestive in the same way Cana’s tone of voice had been, when she’d leaned in towards her and Lucy at the hotel bar that night and slurred a recommendation that made both of them blush furiously.

“C-Cana!” Lucy had shouted, eyes bugging, “Don’t say weird things!”

Cana had shrugged, bringing the beer she nursed to her lips. “Hey, just sayin’. A little dirty talk can really get you through times like this…not like we aren’t all adults, here. Ain’t that right, Juvia?”

“Gray!” Juvia cried, spreading her arms wide like their friend was in the crowded room and not on a completely different body of land, “I’ll send you dirty messages! Beneath the naughty exterior of our banter, love will cascade like the ocean Juvia looks out over, every day, knowing that Gray is on the other side…missing him…” The elegant woman’s expression was torn between lustful, anguished, and dreamy.  

“See?” Cana said smugly, leaning casually back against the bar, “Juvia knows how to get in the spirit.”

Holding a hand up to the side of her mouth, Lucy had whispered conspiratorially to Levy, “She went from raunchy to tragic super fast! Right?”

“And do oceans ‘cascade?’” Levy whispered back.

“Anyways,” drawled Cana, redrawing both girls’ attention, “Take my advice or don’t. But, either way, don’t come cryin’ to Big Sis when by the end of this trip you’re wound up tighter than Fried on a bad day while Erza returns to Jellal glowing, relaxed, and refreshed… and not just ‘cause of the sun and sand and all this girly bonding time. Did you see all those erotic novels she brought? That’s probably what she’s doing right now!”

“W-whatever,” Lucy had replied, blushing faintly, crossing her arms, and turning a haughty nose up and away. “I don’t need erotic novels. And we don’t need to do…that—“ The blush had deepened. “—either. It’ll probably make it better if we wait ’til I get back, anyway; abstinence breaks are supposed to be good for relationships, after all.”

“Well, they do say absence makes the heart grow fonder,” Levy had added thoughtfully.

“Natsu doesn’t much seem to agree,” Cana had pointed out, smirking.

Levy giggled, remembering all the times over the past two months that Lucy had come into Fairy Tail’s bar with Natsu latched onto her calf or her waist, refusing to release her until she agreed to let him come on her “dumb, girly trip.”

But Lucy could be as stubborn as she was hot-tempered (and she wasn’t called the Blonde Devil around Magnolia for nothing).

“For the thousandth time, Natsu: You can’t come!” everyone in the bar (and a fifty-mile radius) had heard her shriek, “I told you: I am celebrating this book advance with a girl’s week at the spa! Girls’ week, Natsu. G-I-R-L-S!”

“N-O. ’No!’” he’d retorted, face inches from his determined girlfriend’s, “I wanna come, too!”

Needless to say, Natsu had lost. Though there had been moments when Levy really thought her friend might cave, especially in the days leading up to the trip, when the time to say goodbye drew nearer and nearer. Lucy had started to look a lot like how Levy felt, at the prospect of leaving her life for a week:

Increasingly anxious.

“A week away will do us all good,” Erza had attempted to comfort them, adjusting her sunhat, seemingly unfazed at the prospect of being away from Jellal (who had, at the time, been occupied with the task of unloading her seventh suitcase from the back of their van), “and will be gone before any of us know it.”

Well, Erza had been half-right. The life of everyday massages, limitless incredible food and fruity cocktails, leisurely schedule, beautiful views, and impromptu cat naps certainly was doing Levy good.

But, boy, did she miss Gajeel.

Also, having sex with Gajeel. Their pre-breakfast and post-dinner rituals—while retaining their spontaneous nature—were as much a fixture in her life as the meals themselves. Meals he always cooked, which Levy was craving more and more every time she was served another plate of star fruit mangoes (which weren’t even native to this island; she knew because she’d read extensively about it).  

Suddenly, Cana’s laughter had cut into her reverie, and Levy realized she was zoning out and kind of drooling a teeny bit.

“Look!” Cana had guffawed while Levy hastily wiped at the corner of her mouth. “Levy’s thinking about it right now!”

“Levy?” Lucy asked, eyeballing her accusingly and placing hands on her hips.

“Even from across the ocean, the fire of their love burns brightly between them,” Juvia whispered carryingly.  

“No…you guys!” Levy cried, cheeks going pink, “I wasn’t…thinking about that. I was thinking about his cooking…I’m really starting to crave it with all this tropical island food.”

Cana smiled deviously. “Oh, yeah,” she said, “You’re thinking about his food, alright. All his…skills. Culinary skills, of course.”

“Yes,” Levy’d agreed, voice determinedly flat. She refused to pick up what Cana was putting down—refused!

However, it was impossible to miss Levy’s furious blush, even in the dim bar. Cana’s smile only broadened at Levy’s answer.

One of the neon lights beaming from the ceiling flashed across the brunette’s face, making her eyes glitter, just before she took a hearty swig of her beer. “Craving a Gajeel-Meal, are ya? Some…Gajeel-Meat?”

Levy had scowled, gulping.

“A Gajeel-Burger? A…Gajeel-Dog?”

Before she could stop herself, Levy said dreamily, “Yes.”

Cana cackled while Lucy brought a hand to her mouth and exclaimed, sounding as scandalized as she looked, “Lev!”

“Levy’s desires burn like wildfire,” Juvia intoned in a carrying whisper.

Levy’s cheeks burned. “No…no!” she exclaimed, waving her hands frantically in front of her. “I meant…the food…”

“Uh-huh.” Cana pointed. “Sure you did.” Then, clearing her throat, she rose to her full and considerable height, tossing her dark waves and adjusting her barely-there top.

“Juvia knows that stance,” the blue-haired woman said suggestively.

“Well, ladies,” announced Cana, slamming her empty beer bottle on the bar and placing a hand on her hip, “I’m going to leave you to your denial, prudish ways, and withering vaginas—“ Lucy and Levy exchanged equally exasperated looks. “—And get myself laid.”

“By who?” Levy asked pointedly.

“That guy, of course,” the brunette had answered easily, pointing a thumb over her shoulder at a black-haired man with a fraction of a shirt, revealing insane muscles. On the bar next to him was an equally insane number of empty bottles. “Haven’t you been paying attention? He hasn’t looked over here even once.”

“Is that…good?” Lucy had asked, baffled. Well, Levy supposed Lucy would be the last person to pick up on flirting subtleties, seeing as the only person she’d dated was Natsu—who had the finesse of a freight train. Not unlike Gajeel, really, though they were kind of different brands of freight train.

“Of course,” Cana said. “There’s only one reason you don’t even glance in the direction of four beautiful women, and that’s because you’re playing hard to get.”

“And you’re confident it’s you?” Levy muttered.

“Oh please.” Cana waved a hand. “You two have been getting plenty of attention, but look at him; he has a man-bun. His tastes run a little wilder…No. He’s after either me or Juvia, and Juvia’s—“

“Juvia would never betray Gray!” the woman cried out passionately.

“There ya go,” Cana acquiesced, “So looks like Big Sis’ll have to take one for the team.”

“Yeah, hope you don’t suffer too bad.” The note of envy Levy had caught in Lucy’s voice was unmistakable.

Cana paused in her mission, eyeing them. “Seriously, you two. A girl doesn’t have to go dry, ya know. Just send them something a little spicy, or a picture, and I bet they’d pounce like a starving hound on a raw—“

“N-no!” Lucy had waved her hands frantically.

Levy, however, had been silent. Thinking.

Clearly, Cana didn’t miss this. She smirked, winking subtly (for once) at the petite girl before she sighed melodramatically and said, “Well, suit yourselves. Oh, and by the way…” She leaned in. “Bet man-bun’d do a little sexting, once this vacation’s over.”

And then she was off, stride confident, hips swinging.

The three of them had left the bar not long after Cana and “Bacchus” had, all a little more quiet and reflective than when they’d entered.

Now, alone in their hotel room, Levy glanced at her phone again. Its black screen gleamed in the lamplight, seeming to wink at her like Cana had. Sliding the metal bookmark with the Pantherlily-shaped charm hanging from the end (a handmade gift from Gajeel) into her book, she shut it, dropping it on the table beside her.

For a few, long moments, she and that phone had a silent argument.

Surely, it couldn’t be so embarrassing to sext, right? At first, the idea had been abhorrent to her, but the more she thought about it…

She really missed Gajeel. And it wasn’t like they didn’t use pillow talk. Initiating would probably be the hardest and worst part…wouldn’t it? After that, she might wind up being really glad that she’d screwed up her courage and done it.

What if he liked it? What if she found out he missed her as much as she missed him?

He hadn’t gotten clingy when Levy announced her impending vacation, the way Natsu had with Lucy. In fact, the only real indication she’d gotten of the fact that he had strong feelings about the two weeks they wouldn’t have each other was the moment before she’d left, when he nearly bear-hugged her to death and muttered, “Don’t do anythin’ stupid, ya hear?”

Which was Gajeel-speak for, “Please be safe. I don’t know what I’d do if you got hurt.” Only his version reached straight into her heart in a way the translated version never would’ve, coming from someone else.

She nearly reached for the phone, but stopped herself. No, Levy, she told herself, Be strong! Lucy was right; absence does make the heart grow fonder.

And the sex better, a suspiciously Cana-esque voice whispered gleefully in the back of her brain, BUT it’s not like you’d actually be having sex, now is it? And what if he mentions that thing he does with his hands? Or his tongue? Or his—

Levy shook her head hard. The numerous possibilities made her take a shaky breath and grab her phone.

Hey! she sent him quickly, before she could change her mind, How’s it going?

Hey, Shrimp, came the easy reply a couple minutes later. I need your nerd brain…what does it mean if cat puke is kinda black?  

Levy’s expression fell into an exasperated deadpan as she stared down at the phone screen. Okay. Better beginnings probably existed in the History of Sexting.

Then she thought for a moment. “Wait…black?” she muttered to herself. That was pretty disturbing.

Lily? she texted worriedly.

False alarm. Looks like he just knocked over my can of oil…jerk. It’s gonna take forever to clean that out of the carpet.

“Whew!” Levy breathed a sigh of relief, bringing a hand to her chest. Thank god…Pantherlily turning into the exorcist definitely would have ruined not only her night, but the rest of her trip—she couldn’t bear the thought of Gajeel trying to nurse his sick companion—the only real friend he’d had, before they’d all found him and pulled him into their family—completely alone.

Probably should tell you…it was your carpet. But I’ll fix it. Promise.

Okay, the warm fuzzies were fading.

Levy’s thirst, however, was not, so she shook off the stray thought that she might actually wind up having to use the carpet insurance her mother had forced her to get (or maybe just cover it up with a book shelf?) and replied, lightly, It’s okay. You’re at my place?

One whole minute later: Yeah…just keeping an eye out. Can’t say I like the look of your neighbor. Don’t want to give him the idea your place is up for panty-raids.

Levy rolled her eyes at that. Okay, admittedly, Gary was shirtless a lot more than was strictly necessary. But he was, like, sixty years old…and nice, once you talked to him!

Still, she thought, trying to stay positive, this is a step in the right direction! Gajeel was being protective, was a protective lover, in fact, something she actually really liked.

It was an improvement on cat puke, anyway—improvement enough that she decided it was time to get this show on the road.

With her thumbs hovering over the keyboard, Levy puffed up her cheeks determinedly.

Type…WORDS, she commanded herself.

Easier said than done.

At long last, with her heart pounding like crazy and one eye closed, she typed, Gajeel, have you ever sexted someone?

When “✓Sent” popped up beneath the text, Levy let out a long exhale, leaning back against the arm of the couch cushion.

There. She’d done it. That text was out in the world. There was no taking it back, now—however he responded. Levy’s anticipation and anxiety grew as time ticked by.

Two minutes.

Four.

Five.

Eight.

Was he drafting a message? What was taking him so long? Maybe he was just making sure to word it really carefully, or didn’t know what to say. Maybe she should’ve started, first. Finally, just when she was about to send him another text, her phone vibrated, and her eyes snapped to the screen quick enough to give her a headache.

Sure, you sent me that nudie picture.

Levy gaped at the screen. What?! I did!?

She had no memory of this! Oh, god, she must’ve been drunk when she’d done it. Frantically, she tried to think of a night she might have pulled that little stunt.

Was it at Wendy’s 21st birthday?!!!??? She started to type, but the moment before she pressed SEND, another text from Gajeel arrived.

Yeah, right here.

And right beneath it, a picture.

Levy had barely taken a nanosecond to examine the image of the soft, shelled, pink shrimp Gajeel had probably found on the internet before she shut her eyes and began to take deep breaths. After dispelling the strong urge to purchase a plane ticket home so she could beat Gajeel with her purse, she texted, teeth gritted, JUST FORGET I SAID ANYTHING, YOU JERK.

She could just imagine him, now, “gi-hi”ing at his own cleverness in her apartment while Pantherlily stared at him with those condescending red eyes, glancing at her front door every few minutes just in case Levy’s senior citizen neighbor tried to break in and steal her panties.

“Oh,” she muttered crossly, “I hope he’s having a good old laugh…stupid, jerk Gajeel.”

Suddenly, her phone vibrated again. Suspiciously, she lifted it, peeking from the corner of her eye…

…And then reeled so hard, she nearly fell off the couch.

I trace the sides of your face with my slender fingers and kiss your ear and face until I come back to your lips.

“Oh, Mavis,” she muttered, clutching the phone to her chest and leaning back against the arm of the sofa to stare at the ceiling, expression caught between horror and intrigue. A bead of sweat trailed languidly down her forehead, evaporating on her red cheek. He was actually…doing it?

Lifting the phone from her chest, she read it again.

Again, more slowly this time.

Then, she frowned, staring at the phone screen.

…slender fingers…

Levy narrowed her eyes.

Huh? she thought.Why would Gajeel describe his own fingers as “slender”? That didn’t sound like him at all. Was he trying to be “author-esque”?

“I hope not,” she muttered to herself, into the muggy silence, “I definitely would not like that version of Gajeel…”

Before she could riddle it out, or even dream of coming up with a response, her phone vibrated again.

I sink my teeth into your inner thighs a few inches from her core and sample a tiny bit of your blood.

What?! What the hell!?

Now he was using third person?

Wait.

Levy frowned down at the phone screen. She re-read the words once. Twice. Three times. At the back of her mind, she felt some distant memory being stirred, and a vaguely uncomfortable, cringing type of feeling to accompany it.

Why did that sound so familiar?

Another vibration, and Levy’s eyes dropped to Gajeel’s next text…

…Then nearly bugged out of her head as realization hit.

Rosettalina, I am your vampire prince and you are my sharp-toothed princess. Slice the vein of my manhood with your sharp teeth, and when I slice the flesh of your womanhood in kind, we will be blood-bound lovers, for all eternity…

She remembered where she’d heard the words, now.

GAJEEL!!!! she texted, faster and more furiously than she’d ever texted in her life. There was a definite possibility she was going to mangle her phone’s keyboard, considering how hard she was typing but she couldn’t have cared less, WHAT ARE YOU DOING, DIGGING AROUND UNDER MY BED???

The real question, Shrimpettalina, came the reply, making her growl (not a very intimidating sound, but her bite was worse than her bark!) is why the hell do you got a bunch of Sexy Vampire books under your bed?

Slapping a palm to her forehead, she groaned.

“My mom was right,” she muttered, “I’ve got to stop hoarding.”

She’d had a six-month vampire phase. Six-month. When she was thirteen. It just so happened to coincide with her sexual awakening, and so—with an odd mixture of shame and excitement swirling in her belly—she’d started to pick up novels from the “Vampire Erotica” section of her favorite local bookstore—novels that got increasingly scandalous with each purpose. Then, for years, they’d remained forgotten under her bed, until she began the process of moving and rediscovered them, shoving them into her minivan when her mom began making inquiries.

Apparently, somehow, they’d wound up under her new bed, and lay—forgotten, again.

Until stupid, jerk Gajeel showed up.

For a long minute, all Levy could do was scowl. Then, at length, she smiled, and burst out laughing.

Stupid, jerk Gajeel. He’d really had her there, for a minute. It had shocked her more than she would have thought when he actually sexted. Now, she realized why; the thought of Gajeel sexting was hot…but also, bizarre.

“What was I thinking?” she muttered, still smiling.

She’d thought she was flustered, trying to get some “sexty” talk going. But Gajeel? He barely spoke while they physically did it, mostly just grunts and groans and her name—her real name—and feelings that seemed to rush from him into her with every touch, feelings of redemption and having seen real beauty for the first time and fierce protectiveness and intense love…which was hot and amazing, in the moment, but didn’t translate very well into a written message.

What had gone through his head, when she’d asked if he’d ever sexted? Levy chortled at the thought of him panicking reading her text, in the middle of dabbing oil from her carpet while Pantherlily watched stoically from atop her bookshelf where he liked to sit on visits. Gajeel spotting the box labeled “BOOKS” under her bed and snatching it, desperate for inspiration.

Her smile broadened.

Yes, that was exactly what had happened. She was willing to bet money on it.

Maybe Levy’s initial reaction to Cana’s idea had been right; being away from Gajeel seemed only to make her want him more. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Isn’t that what she’d said?

She’d wait.

Full of sudden warmth, she texted, I love you, idiot. I can’t wait to see you.

After a long minute, he responded, Love you too, Shrimp.

Levy smiled affectionately down at the screen.

…Until it vibrated again.

And just so you’re aware, I’m gonna fuck you so hard when you come back you’re pervy neighbor’ll move out.

Upon reading the message, Levy’s face settled into an irritated neutral.

Nuh-uh! No way! You had your chance!

Ah, c’mon, Shorty…

FORGET IT!

What’s In A Name. Part 2.

Part One.

—-

She’d been lucky it hadn’t rained, but as the sun had finally set across the highlands so the brisk cold had seeped in. The plaid blanket she’d acquired from her surgery had helped a little but the wind bit through the fabric and seeped into her bones. Claire had managed to find a small hide out along the side of the road, a cave off the path enough that she hoped she wouldn’t be spotted. But it was facing the direction of the flurries of cold air that blew across the land, and there weren’t enough trees around to shield her. In truth she had no idea where she was, she cursed the whole darn thing. As they’d travelled from Inverness to Leoch under, mostly, the cover of darkness, she had no clue where they’d come from. As she’d left the castle she’d just headed in a direction hoping that it was the right one. 

What she wouldn’t give for a map!

The first night had been fairly mild, she’d slept beneath the stars and had felt fairly upbeat about her escape. Now, however, the reality of her situation was sinking in. She was alone. Geilis’ words rattled around her brain; 

“The highlands are no place for a woman.

How right she was, but she couldn’t allow that to thwart her. The forest was mostly silent around her, only the sounds of the creaking trees and the breeze through the leaves, the animals had all scarpered the moment the sun had set. 

Claire closed her eyes, huddled herself closer to the exposed rock at her side and tried to sleep. The damp, fetid scent of her night dwelling swirled around her, the rain a few days previous having not yet evaporated from the dark hollows of her confined cave. She thought of Frank then, of how happy and relived he would be if she made it back safely. She had no clue how she would explain this to him, but for now she had to concentrate on her task; getting back to the standing stones. 

– 

The days bled into one another as she trudged ever onwards.

She couldn’t afford to loose sight of the road, it was a risky thing, patrols of both Scots and Redcoats marched along on an almost daily basis. Claire had taken to walking a few feet off the path, not so deep into the trees that she couldn’t see it, but far enough away that she could hide should anyone be coming along it. 

She ached to ask some of the more random travellers for directions or help, but that was too dangerous and she knew it. Any one of them could turn on her, or give her false instruction. No, she had to rely on herself alone. 

– 

As time passed, her food began to run dry. The bread had almost gone stale and the cheese was just crumbs in its napkin container. The whisky was also running low, she had a number of skills to survive in the wild and didn’t doubt her ability to do so, but it now meant she had to venture further into the canopy, especially where water was concerned. 

It must have been a week or so by the time she’d completely exhausted her supplies. She crouched by the small stream, her hope dwindling more and more each day. The black clouds that hovered above the tree line, barely visible, cast a dark shadow over her. She was beginning to lose faith in her grand plan. It had rained hard the previous night and the forest floor was damp but alive with fresh greenery, the bottom of her dress dragged sorrowfully through the new underbrush as she sloped off in search of a place to rest for a moment. The shoes that Mrs Fitz had so kindly rooted out for her were caked in mud, her toes frozen with cold. 

She sat, finally, against a tall tree perched on a rock with a handful of berries. Uncle Lamb had taught her the fine art of sorting the poisonous from the edible, and at this point she was extremely grateful for the education. Without it she would have been hungry days ago. 

The caution Claire had exhibited on leaving the castle had been thrown aside now, her ears still pricked at the sounds around her, but she was more intent on not losing her way than she was with every human noise. It was lucky that the band of soldiers were unnaturally loud, without the telltale clunk and clatter of their tin pots and the braying exclamation of their horses she wouldn’t have noticed them until they were upon her. Luck, however, was on her side for the moment. 

She was walking only inches from the road when the sound of them finally reached her ears. A familiar voice rang out, bouncing off the exposed bark of the tree trunks and meeting her ears with a deadly ring. 

Captain Randall was growling orders, in his usual tone, it made Claire jump to hear it. Her face paled as she scrambled off the track and down the slight banks that lead back into the woods. She had to hide herself, from her first meeting with him to Jamie’s tales of Fort William, she didn’t wish to have a second encounter with the man. She’d been lucky the first time when Murtagh had sprung her from his grasp, she knew she wouldn’t be so fortunate this time around. 

Just as the group rounded the bend in the road, Claire found a wee gap in the muck. She curled herself up in it, her body shaking with cold and fear. The dirt and filth she’d clambered into smelt of rotting leaves but she welcomed that to a conversation with Randall. His voice sent shivers down her spine as she listened to them pass, the other men in his party ever silent. She sat and waited, even after it had been some minutes since they’d lumbered passed. She needed to be sure they were far out of her way before she continued. The thick cluster of leaves that concealed her little hideaway didn’t allow her much of a view, she had to rely on her hearing alone. 

The only sound that rattled around the confined space was that of her shallow breathing. Her hands were clenched tight against her breast as she counted out the minutes. 

Ten. 

Twenty. 

They had to be far away now, tentatively she moved the greenery aside, the forest lay empty and silent beyond. Cautiously a she twisted herself so her legs popped out, then she slowly shimmied her bottom along the short ridge before quietly emerging. She stood for a wee while, taking in her surroundings once more. 

When she was certain she was alone again, she turned. In front of her now, closer than she would have thought possible, stood Dougal Mackenzie. She startled, cried out and jumped backwards, only to be surrounded by Rupert’s strong arms. His hand came up to clamp down over her mouth. 

"Easy now, lassie. Where did ye think you were going?” Dougal’s menacing tone turned her blood cold, his eyes were hard as steel. She made a futile attempt to struggle against Rupert, but she knew she was going nowhere. Her heart sank in her chest. 

“Thought ye could outsmart us on our own lands, did ye! Weel, I wouldna ha’ rated yer chances had ye placed this idea in front of me. We ken this land, mistress! Dinna think ye, a stray Sassenach wench, can pull the wool o'er oor eyes!” His thick Scottish brogue became even more dense in his anger. She was shaking now, something told her she was in major bother. His tone and posture wasn’t just that of a man put out by her attempt to leave. He knew something, something that had caused this callous attitude towards her to surface. 

Rupert pulled her closer to him, the stench of his highland search, the sweat and filth crept up and assaulted her senses as she push away from him in an attempt to get him to loosen his hold. 

“Ah ah ah! Feisty, ye arena going anywhere now.” He cooed in her ear, finally releasing her mouth to pull her hands out towards Dougal. 

“I just want to go home! Let me go!” She fought, her words the only thing left. “I don’t ask for anything from you, not food. Nor shelter! I just. Want. To. Go. HOME!" 

"SILENCE! Ye are under arrest, and as of now, a prisoner of Clan Mackenzie! Shush yer havering, ye’ll be quiet. I dinna wish to hear any o’ yer protests. Do. Ye. Understand?” His eyes glinted with pleasure as he tied the thick rope around her wrists, binding her tight. 

“I haven’t done…" 

"Yes, ye have! Ye ken exactly what’s amiss, dinna be harping on about no’ doing anything, Mrs Randall!” He growled the name at her, the malice and hatred seeping into every syllable of her married name. She snapped her mouth shut in shock, her eyes held his but hers were filled with confusion. 

“N-no…it’s…Beauchamp, Claire B-Beauchamp…” She stuttered, but even she could hear the waver in her voice. Her face had lost all colour, she was white as a sheet as Dougal dragged her unceremoniously to his horse. She’d never been a good liar, there was no way she’d be able to turn it around now. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the telltale glint of Jamie’s bright red hair, her head ached to turn and look up at him but she was too scared to see the shattered look on his face. 

“No. It isna. It’s Randall and we all ken it well. Yer a trickster, and a liar. A wee English viper! And ye will pay for yer misdeeds!” Dougal lapsed into Gaelic now, muttering and swearing under his breath as he attached her to the saddle of his horse with such force that it nearly knocked the wind out of Claire. She stood silent and shaking, unable to form any more words. How had they found out? 

Really though, it was of no consequence now, they all knew. 

“Ye’ll walk back to Leoch, dinna expect any leniency.” She kept her mouth shut as all the men mounted around her, her eyes were fixed firmly on the ground unwilling to meet any of their gazes. The shawl that had kept her warm through the long Scottish nights had fallen into the heather in the confusion and her shoulders started to shake with cold. 

– 

The first few days back on the road were tough to say the least. Every evening either Rupert or Angus would tether Claire to a tree with no regard for her now battered wrists. The ropes bit into her skin, leaving them raw and bleeding. She didn’t say a word, kept her head down and lay quietly by herself. On the third night the rain came, heavy and unrelenting. The men found shelter but left Claire out in the open. Her body was wracked with cold, her skin flushed with gooseflesh as her teeth rattled with every shake. Without a blanket to cover her, her arms were mostly exposed to the elements. She curled herself, unconsciously, around the tree that kept her tethered, clinging desperately to anything for warmth. 

In the late hours, long after the sun at fallen beyond the horizon, Jamie covered her with a spare plaid. She made no move to look at him as he swaddled her and rubbed her shoulders gently. Her tears mingled with the rain droplets that clustered on her cheeks, but her eyes were red raw. 

“Ye should try and sleep a bit now.” He whispered into the dark, her hands clenched and her eyes squeezed shut as she nodded, ever the kind soul, Jamie was always the one to take pity on her. Even under these circumstances, when he should be much angrier and way more disappointed than Dougal. It gave her hope, hope that she could convince him that all was not what it seemed.

“T-thank yo-you.” She stuttered to him, her teeth chattering as she spoke. Her head was tipped forward, her hair covering her face. He almost didn’t hear her. 

“Nay bother, mistress.” He replied, twisting his hands together. He certainly wanted to press her for information, to find out whether she’d played him for the fool, but now wasn’t the time. A part of him still ached to take her out of the cold, but he knew that wasn’t an option either. Dougal had been adamant that she suffer, and he was in no position to argue given the evidence presented to them. So he left her, with one forlorn look, and went back to the men to sleep. God knows he’d need his energy come morning.